“Sorry but why is the shipping $400?”

“Because we have to send it by freight sir”

“Um, what about like UPS or something?”

“I’m afraid that’s not possible due to the weight.  You’re going to have to pay for a freight carrier.  You can find your own or you can use ours at the price stated.”

“Wait, so how much does this thing weight actually?”

“A ton.”

“No but like… actually.  How much does it actually weigh.”

“It weighs one ton sir.”

“Oh…”

And that was about the moment I realized I was going to need more than roommate Dane’s help to get my new arcade machine into the living room when it arrived in two short weeks.

The year was 2010, and I was living with 8 other would-be professional poker players in a 7,000 Sq foot Las Vegas residence that was likely used as a porn set at some point.  We lovingly referred to our Topaz St home as “Scarface” due to it’s similarity to the house in the film, and between the 8 of us and our friends, there was generally 15 people at the house at all times, and always someone awake.

At any hour of the day you could walk into the estate, doors always unlocked (not sure we had keys) and you would be greeted by the familiar symphony of Poker Stars beeps resounding in concerto with the shuffle, deal and timer noises of the once beloved Full Tilt software. Eventually we even had the familiar sounds of text messages and tweets when some girls moved in with us.  If you’ve ever doubted a Vegas girl’s ability to look immaculate on the outside while routinely sleeping on her bedroom floor with a Carl’s Jr. fast-foot bag used as a pillow on the inside… well now you know.

The only unspoken rule was that no one had a real job or any ambition of ever having one.  I believe the spoken rule was “Zach, please don’t throw computer chairs off the balcony when you’re drunk.”  The former we embodied like a credo, the later not so much.

It seemed that every day there were new treats being delivered to the house for someone care of Amazon Prime.  We knew the UPS and Fedex guys on a first name basis and there was no doubt in their mind that we either sold drugs or were some sort of MaCaulay Culkin clones from the movie Blank Check.  While it certainly did feel at times like we had somehow “beat life,” the truth was that we actually all generally worked very hard, although no one ever called it that.

We never used the W word, not once not ever.  Work is something for people with jobs.  We we poker players, so naturally when we sat down at our computers or at the Casino tables, we played, and playing is fun.

As a young adult, I was on some sort of mission to have everything anyone ever told me I couldn’t have, most especially my parents.  Mom said trampolines are dangerous and dad wouldn’t let me shut the door when I had girls in my room, so it was quite a coming of age moment for me to have a massive trampoline in the center of my living room, complete with UNLV sorority girls bouncing on it drink in hand, making fresh Jagermeister stains on the same carpet our rescue dogs routinely peed on.

I have always strongly resented rules and quested after whatever I believed freedom to be.  I think this is natural of all children.  We want to know why for everything, our curiosity is insufferable and insatiable   Moreover, we need a compelling why, answers like “because I said so” just don’t leave our soul feeling satisfied.

It was boundless freedom much more than the Greg Raymer lifestyle which made poker seem appealing in the first place.  Money is a small part of the game, financial freedom, but it’s so far from the whole story.  It’s more like the freedom to look society, conditioning, prevailing mindsets and organizational systems devoid of humanity square in the face and say “Actually, go fuck yourself, I don’t need you to tell me how to live.”

It’s having the freedom to see that the way most people think isn’t the way you have to think; that realization is the foundation of personal freedom.

For a teenager who didn’t realize everyone is inherently cool and who mistakenly thought he had to do something external to somehow achieve this status, MTV seemed like a worthwhile place to gather information about the cool-kid-club access rules.  One day on a casual stroll through some 11-year-old rapper’s 3 million dollar home via the stimulating program known as Cribs, I came to find that after all the different colored Air Jordans had been acquired “Bow Wow” had seen fit to put a full size Pac Man arcade machine in his closet.  My heart raced…

Thinking back to my early days of sneaking off to the mall by myself to spend my $5 allowance, I remembered my own arcade crush; her name was Top Skater, and she was magnificent.  Unfortunately, like many of the beautiful ones who eventually find their way to Vegas, she was also fucking expensive.

$1 per game, $5 a week, you do the math.  Average duration of a session was 4 minutes.  This was 1998, a time where Mortal Combat, which is a stupid game I only played because it was violent and therefore I shouldn’t, was about .25 cents a game.  Fuck I feel old.  I remember thinking to myself at 11 years old that if I would only own Top Skater, then I could play it as much as I wanted.  That day when MTV beamed into my living-room an image of little whoever standing on his tip-toes to reach the joystick on his favorite game machine, something sparked inside of me.

The fuse that spark would light came in Vegas circa 2010, when 8 redbulls deep, heart racing and legs thumping like the energizer bunny, I clicked my sweaty little mouse all the way to victory in the FTOPS $322 6max Turbo 4x Shootout.  As I paced around the war room the way overstimulated people with a life history of latent unconscious anxiety tend to do after quadrupling their net worth, the idea of sorority girls bouncing off from my beloved trampoline and onto a life sized virtual reality skateboard machine started to take shape in my mind.  Yes, the north star of Top Skater’s pilgrimage into my arms finally shone like a beacon in the night sky.  Praise Jesus.

So 1 fucking Ton, this thing.  I thought that was a unit of measurement reserved only for Bugs Bunny cartoons.  I had just kind of assumed that Dane and I could handle this when I snapped the Buy-It-Now off of Ebay for the low low price for $2k USD + shipping.

Yolo.

Dane was my go to roommate for all things responsibility, which was something I needed since I was on a quest against ever having any responsibility of my own.  When I burnt out the clutch on the I-15 in my 6-speed Fast and the Furious looking Honda I never properly learned how to drive, he was at the rescue, in a modest but classy BMW which I imagine was something like what I might drive if I grew up one day.  When I took a female suitor onto the roof after a party for an enchanted evening and the desert winds blew down the super sketchy ladder we climbed up, it was Dane again to save the day.  But for a metric ton of top skating goodness, I was going to need reinforcements.

Reinforcements came on arrival day when the freight guy, who’s name I didn’t know, reluctantly agreed to use his forklift indoors on our marble floors to wheel my new muse into the room which housed our poker/once-a-year-makeshift-thanksgiving-dinner table.  I unwrapped her Styrofoam garments and took a deep inhale of her beauty, “Ah, free at last my love.”

But as is true of all star-crossed lovers, the initial burst of euphoria one days fades.  Weeks go by and life gets stressful, responsibility and the need to earn and produce takes over.  The melodic harmony of the one Pennywise song she knew no longer accompanied the daily beeps, her lights went weeks without shining, and our love affair become forgotten.  It was all over but the crying.

On April 15th 2011, the proverbial tears came.  As I looked at the ridiculous bald eagle seal on my computer screen informing me that the domains of Full Tilt Poker and Poker Stars had been “seized by the southern district court of New York for promoting unlawful gambling activity, as designated under the Federal Wire Act of 1961” that familiar freedom loving child’s voice began to sir.  “Kindly go fuck yourself” he said to the eagle.

I knew Top Skater and I were going to have to cut the chord on our romance for good.  A piece of our dream will always live on together, but I was called to other skys.  I had flights to catch, and donks to stack.

It was a tough time for Top Skater, no one saw her beauty like I did.  I found a guy on craigslist who was willing to take her on for $100, but once her saw the logistical battle of housing her he quickly changed his tune.

So it was with a heavy heart and a bit of benevolence that I gave my love away to a new crowd of young guys with too much money.  As we poker players headed for greener pastures outside the “Land of the Free” some fresh blood picked up our home.  These entrepreneurs discarded the Scarface title, and reinvented this hallowed ground as “Project Vegas,” a pay to stay, out-patient coaching for pick-up students.

It’s a nice thought to think that somewhere out there, another intelligent guy with a lifetime of social anxiety is leading some darling girl by the hand over to a 1 ton virtual skateboard machine and listening to her laugh and topple about while Pennywise plays the anthem of their new romance. Legends and Love, the two things that never die.

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Thanks for taking the time to read my little story. As you can see, a lot of the things I’m able to coach people on are things I learned by experience.  We live, we make mistakes, we learn, and hopefully we smile throughout. In the race for progress it can be easy to forget the memories we make along the way.  Always remember that you get to decide the meaning in your own life.  You are the author of your own experience, and you can choose to live beautifully.

James Whittet

bitB Mental Game Coach

 

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